How to Count Macros and Why it is Important

Counting macros, or macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats), can be a valuable tool for anyone looking to optimize their nutrition and achieve specific health and fitness goals. Here are several reasons why counting macros can be beneficial:

  1. No more guessing: Counting macros allows you to have a precise understanding of what you’re eating. We are often very bad at guessing or estimating our true caloric intake. Unlike just counting calories (which doesn’t differentiate between the types of nutrients you’re consuming) tracking macros gives you insight into the specific breakdown of the protein, carbs, and fats in your diet. You must have a baseline understanding of your intake to make adjustments for body composition change. 
  1. Tailored to Your Goals: Whether you’re looking to lose weight, build muscle, or improve athletic performance, counting macros enables you to customize your nutrition plan to suit your individual goals. By adjusting your macro intake, you can effectively manipulate your body composition and energy levels. Counting macros allows for an individualized approach to nutrition, taking into account factors such as bodyweight, activity level, and dietary restrictions or preferences.
  1. Increase Energy Levels: Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy, particularly for high-intensity activities. By tracking your carbohydrate intake, you can ensure that you’re fueling your body appropriately for your activity level, resulting in sustained energy throughout the day.
  1. Flexibility in Food Choices: Tracking macros allows for flexibility in food choices while staying in your goals. As long as you stay within your macro targets, you can incorporate a variety of foods into your diet, making it easier to adhere to your nutrition plan in the long term. Tracking brings freedom to your food choices!
  1. Long-Term Sustainability: Perhaps most importantly, counting macros offers a sustainable approach to nutrition. Rather than following a one-size-fits-all diet plan, tracking macros empowers you to make informed choices about your food intake, leading to healthier habits that can be maintained over the long term.

Tips To Get You Started With Counting Macros

Here are some tips to get you started with tracking! 

First, you need to find out a calorie and macronutrient range that makes sense for you, your activity levels, and your health history, and your body composition or performance goals. Sometimes people are shocked when they learn how many calories they should be eating, so refining your goals with a professional is definitely recommended. If you need help with this, reach out to your doctor, RD, or you can book a free consultation with our nutrition team if you would like some general guidance. 

Once you have your calorie and macronutrient ranges, it is easy to use apps like MyFitnessPal or LoseIt to track macros. You will simply search the food you eat and enter your serving size. For processed foods with a nutrition label, you can scan barcodes and the app will auto populate the nutrition information. For many whole foods, you will need to weigh and/or measure serving sizes of what you are consuming. Weighing and measuring is the most accurate way to count calories and macros. 

Always be sure to double check nutrition labels that are automatically found in the database of these apps, because some are manually logged by other people, which means there is more room for error!

Once you start logging your food into the calorie counting apps, you will notice that the process is a math equation and very similar to financial budgeting. Protein is 4 calories per gram, fats are 9 calories per gram, and carbohydrates are 4 calories per gram. As you log foods into the calorie counting app, you will start playing tetris to try and hit your calorie and macronutrient goals for the day. Gamifying this process can be really fun!

Reading nutrition labels and understanding serving size is also important. You’ll realize that some foods will fit very well and others might be super tasty, but less ideal for your goals and leave less ideal calorie breakdowns that make it hard to have room for other foods later in the day. Identifying these tradeoffs is important for long term sustainability and success!

Counting macros can be a valuable tool for optimizing nutrition and achieving a wide range of health and fitness goals. By providing a precise understanding of your nutrient intake, enabling customization to suit your individual needs, and promoting greater awareness of food choices, tracking macros can support a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Whether you’re aiming to lose weight, build muscle, or simply improve overall health, counting macros can help you take control of your nutrition and make meaningful progress towards your goals.